My little brother is coming home from school today for Thanksgiving break...With his girlfriend! They'll both be staying with my parents for a full week.
As the protective older sister, I feel not unlike a mother whose little baby is growing up and leaving the nest. It makes me feel ancient and antique, like I've turned around and suddenly he's a man, and I'm a grandma. Something about Chase bringing a girl HOME for a WEEK makes me want to weep a little bit. He's all grown up, I want to cry, dabbing at the tears in my eyes with the embroidered handkerchief I'm holding in my wrinkly hand. My little boy is a man now. Then I'd straighten my reading glasses and adjust the chain that holds them around my neck, take a deep and ragged breath, and go back to my knitting.
But I don't carry an embroidered handkerchief, and I don't knit; I don't have wrinkly hands, and I don't wear glasses. I'm 26, and he's 20, but something about this makes me feel old. And it makes me want to take this girl into a locked room, point a sweat lamp directly at her head and ask her all sorts of intrusive questions. What are your intentions with my brother? Are you sure you feel strongly for him? Are you leading him on? You better MEAN EVERYTHING YOU SAY TO HIM, AND STICK BY IT NO MATTER WHAT OR I WILL OWN YOU. Understand? I want to employ the tactics my dad threatened me with when I first started dating: Cleaning guns at the kitchen table when she walks in. I want to eye her suspiciously, make her nervous...
But I won't. Obviously. For a number of reasons: One, it's not my place. Two, I'm just not that kind of person. And three, Chase really cares for her. And he must care for her for a reason. If he likes her, she must be pretty incredible.
And then there's the other thing: No matter how shitty my boyfriends in the past were, Chase was always nice. He may be my "little brother" by timeline, but not physically. Physically, he's much bigger than me, and he could very easily play the role of Asshole Big Brother if need be. And he never did. Not because he didn't care, but because I cared about the guy, and that was enough for Chase. So I'm going to try to approach it that way this time.
I haven't always thought of it this way. In fact, I'm sort of notorious for being the mean older sister when it comes to girlfriends. Not because I'm mean just for the sake of being mean, but because in Chase's younger years, I was just a better judge of character than he was. Chase was sweet and unquestionably trusting, where I could sense evil immediately. And one particular girl he brought around was just that. So from the instant I met her and heard her referring to my mom and dad as "Mom" and "Dad," I'd had enough. I was short with her, I couldn't look at her, and I wanted nothing to do with her. I tried to be nice, but I insisted, to Chase and my whole family (who all loved her), that something was wrong. With her. That she wasn't as sweet as she made herself out to be. I didn't like that she was intruding on my territory. That she was trying to wedge herself into my incredible family because she got dealt a shitty one. I thought she was too full of sacchrine, her act was too syrupy to swallow. And you know what? A couple of months later, the truth was revealed. And who was right? ME. That's who. I saw through her artificial affection and her too-sweet demeanor to the slimy opportunist that was circling Chase's feet.
But, because I was "mean" to her, I've developed a slight reputation in my family of being a VERY overprotective big sister. My little brother isn't nervous about bringing girls home to meet my parents, he's nervous about bringing them to meet me. "Promise me you'll be nice," Chase said when he gently broke the news that his girlfriend would be sharing our time together this Thanksgiving.
"I am nice," I maintained. "As long as I think she's good to you."
"She is," he said. I could picture him closing his eyes and nodding, like a frustrated parent tired of explaining things to his child.
"I promise." I heard his exhale of relief through the phone. "BUT!" I amended, "If I sense something off, I'm going to tell you. And then I'll be civil, but I won't be awesome. Okay?"
I'm approaching this like Chase and his girlfriend are 14. They're both in their twenties. Technically, they're my peers. Yet I'm assuming the role of Adult to their assigned role of Child in my mind.
It's so silly. Because I know that Chase is grown. I know he's capable of judging good from bad. And I even know that this girl is really nice, and treats him really well. But I'm constantly on the lookout for people's ulterior motives when it comes to him, as though Chase The Poor College Student has anything worth stealing. It's just that he's such a good man, such a kind, giving and caring person, I'm terrified that people will take advantage of that soft, perfect part of him. I love him so much, I want to protect him. Even if he's perfectly capable of protecting himself. Even if he doesn't want me to. Even if it's silly and ridiculous and antiquated and stupid. I love him. And I'm his big sister. I always will be.
Protecting him, in whatever small way I can, is what I'll be doing for the rest of my life.